Commenting on today's announcement that the Church of England has disinvested from the mining company Vedanta Resources Plc, Jonathan Bartley, co-director of the religion and society thinktank Ekklesia, said:
"Vedanta was just one of a number of investments in mining companies which the Church of England still holds, as our report examining the ethics of the Church's investments in May last year highlighted.
"Both the Church of England and the Methodist Church hold shares in Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, despite the fact that the Catholic aid agency CAFOD, War on Want, Anglican bishops and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines amongst others have previously condemned the companies for their actions. The combined Church of England shareholding in these three companies was valued at £62 million in the last annual report of the Church Commissioners.
"Mining is one of the most polluting industries in the world. It has a disproportionately negative impact on marine-dependent and land-based communities, especially indigenous peoples, and is frequently associated with forced evictions, militarisation, conflict and human rights abuses including extra-judicial killings.
"BHP Billiton in particular has faced allegations of human rights abuses and widespread environmental destruction. The London Mining Network recently published an ‘alternative report’ into its activities. It outlined the negative impact of many of the company’s operations – in Australia, West Papua, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, South Africa, Canada, Colombia and Chile.
"The report involved the work of organisations from many countries working with directly impacted communities, including church groups. It catalogued abuses of human rights, particularly of affected communities, issues of worker health and safety, livelihood and food security, and environmental problems. It also raises issues around climate change and BHP Billiton’s commitment to increased extraction and promotion of both coal and uranium for power production.
"It is welcome news that after several years of campaigning, the Church of England has finally realised that the activities of Vedanta are incompatible with its ethical stance on a number of issues.
"Serious questions must now be asked about the Church's investments in other mining companies. At a time when the Church is seeking to 'green' its churches and campaign against climate change, not to mention human rights abuses, there is a clear conflict if it is seeking to make money from companies involved in environmental destruction and the abuse of vulnerable people."